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Life Beyond Grades: Why Does It Matter?

The winds of change are blowing with Life Beyond Grades, a social campaign of Singaporeans sharing their Primary Six Leaving Exams (PSLE) score and stories about their lives after receiving these results.

The subject of grades and their long-term impact is close to my heart, so I buzzed my mum to ask her for my score to partake in this tide of social sharing. NEITHER OF US REMEMBERED!

Truth be told, I don’t have a dramatic story of the exact moment I got my results. What I do remember is the feeling that “Oh, it was ALMOSTTTT 250”, ie the magical number that supposedly guaranteed that you could go to a very good school.

My PSLE score and life after

With this ‘247’ result, my parents applied me to a mid-tier school which was a direct bus ride away. Whilst it wasn’t a top secondary school, it WAS a school which introduced some key people into my life.

I joined the school band where we practiced hard for the national band  competition, learning about hard work, disappointment and teamwork. My classmates were much smarter than I and took time to tutor me after school, since I was one of the odd balls who did not have private tuition. In this case, being a mid-size fish in a small pond helped build my confidence, whilst getting guidance from the big fish.

In university, I met international classmates who had part-time jobs, hobbies in music, theatre or sports, who volunteered… They were confident and multifaceted individuals. This was when I realised how limited my academic journey had been.

I started learnings things “for fun”, having random experiences and figuring out what I like and don’t like.

These were the early seeds of creating PositiveLeePeilin workshops, which center around building children’s general knowledge and letting them experience different skillsets.

PSLE and its impact on children now

I speak with teenagers when I give school talks and at dance class (I’m thrice the age of my hip-hop classmates) and the concern over grades is real, as with depression and competition. I see scarred wrists and hear broken voices who measure their self-worth to the grades they get at school.

Why grades matter and why they don’t

What I’ve experienced is that our exam results provide a stepping stone to the next chapter. The higher your score, the more options you have. After that, the working world assesses you on what you can bring to the table, which is much more varied and complex.

My suggestion? Let your child try everything once. The next new thing might be scary and uncomfortable, but it might also spark something inside.

This is a principle that i practice as an adult too. We don’t know until we try, and very often, we don’t know until we try and try and try. What’s the worst that can happen? We just find out with greater certainty whether we enjoy doing something, or if it’s not for us at this point of our lives. And that’s ok.

How do we encourage living life beyond grades?

I’m heartened by the ground-up initiative that is Life Beyond Grades, as it brings together parents, the Ministry of Education and other parenting experts to look at this topic closely. We all need to play a part to make our children’s lives more vibrant and fulfilling!

Want some actionable next steps? I share my thoughts about HOW we can shift our mindset here.  Also, I’ve compiled tips from experts at the latest Life Beyond Grades talk here.

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